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Powercat Financial

Preparing for Next Semester

With finals right around the corner and winter break fast approaching, you may not even want to think about next semester yet.  However, it can save money to get ready for it sooner rather than later and you won’t have to worry about it when returning to campus.

There are many things you’ll need to consider when thinking about next semester including budgeting, financial aid, school supplies, textbooks, class registration, and class drop dates.

Budgeting

The first thing to do when preparing for next semester is to determine a budget.  A budget can help keep you on track and set financial goals, such as saving up for spring break.  It can help you know what spending money you have available and where you can work on spending less (and can even help you determine some New Year’s resolutions).

Financial Aid

Part of the budgeting process may involve student loans, scholarships, grants, and fellowships.  Look back over this past semester and see how much financial aid you accepted and determine if it was just enough or if you could have gotten by with less.  This involves taking a hard look at your spending over the past semester and seeing if there were times you could have saved money.  If you could have gotten by with less, then contact the financial aid office (http://www.k-state.edu/sfa/) to ask them to reduce the disbursement for next semester.  This will not only help you learn to control spending, but will also save you money in student loans and interest costs down the road.

School Supplies

School supplies can be relatively inexpensive by themselves, but over time, the total cost accumulates to a big amount.  Some ways to save money on school supplies are:

  • Make a list of what you need and stick to it.  It can be tempting to want to buy some supplies that could be useful, but you may not use them or need them when it comes time.
  • Buy in bulk.  If you know you will be using a certain supply frequently, it will save money to buy the large quantity that’s cheaper per unit.  For example, if you know you’ll be printing a lot of articles, contemplate buying the multiple pack of ink cartridges or the carton of paper instead of a ream each time you run out.  Costco can be a good place to look for bulk supplies
  • Look for coupons.  Many stores have coupons or weekly ads available on their sites and may advertise for upcoming sales.  Before setting out to shop, make sure to look for coupons or sales by going to the stores’ websites. Staples also has a 20-25% off brown bag sale for back-to-school times, so keep on the lookout for when that will be!
  • Think about holiday sales.  Some stores also have sales on holidays such as Boxing Day (December 26th) that can save you money.
  • Look around for what you may already have.  It can be easy to lose pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. Before going out and buying new supplies, scour your room for these missing items.

Textbooks

College textbooks can be a major drain to the bank account.  You can learn ways to save money on them by implementing these few tips.

Book requirements can be found at http://courses.k-state.edu/.  You can click course schedules, then select the year, select course schedule and finally select the department (which are arranged by colleges).  There’s a book icon you can click that will list the required, recommended, and optional books.  The direct link for next semesters’ books is http://courses.k-state.edu/spring2014/schedule.html.

Consider buying used instead of new.  Used books range from like-new to acceptable and are offered at a significantly reduced price.  Used books are sold by bookstores, major companies such as Amazon, and private sellers such as students who took the course previously.  You can compare used book prices at the following sites:

Consider renting textbooks instead of buying.  For some textbooks, you may only want to have the book for the course and won’t use it afterwards.  There are many sites, including Chegg and Amazon, that offer the option to rent the book for a month, a quarter, or a semester.  If you decide that you want to own the book after using it, you can pay the difference between the buy price and rent price and not have to return the book.  Beware when renting to return the book on time.  You may be charged late fees, an extra semester, or the cost of the book if you are late.

And finally, email your professors about buying international editions or previous versions.  Many textbook makers make a few changes and rerelease the book as a new version that can be charged at a higher price for those few changes.  Many times professors use the older version book anyway and would allow you to buy the old version as well.  This can shave a lot off the list price of the new version.  International versions typically have different covers, page numbers, and chapter orders than the United States versions, but contain the same information.  This can complicate reading assignments when you’re given the page numbers or chapter names, but can cut costs sometimes up to 50-75%.  For both of these options, make sure to ask your professors before making the purchases.

For more information on saving money on textbooks, you can visit http://lifehacker.com/5613591/the-complete-guide-to-getting-cheap-textbooks.

Registration/Drop Dates

You probably are already registered for classes next semester.  However, since your tuition is calculated based on the courses you are enrolled in, if you are contemplating adding or dropping a course, it may be helpful to make the final decision sooner rather than late.  That way, you won’t have to deal the complexities of either paying extra for a class added or going through the process of getting a refund to your account for classes dropped.

It’s also important to know when the refund drop dates are for courses.  These dates can be found by going through the academic calendar at http://www.k-state.edu/cgi-bin/eventview/registrar/academic.  For the spring 2014 semester, the last day to drop a course, but still get 100% of the tuition costs back is February 10th.  After that, you will only get 50% of the tuition cost back.  The last day to get 50% of the cost back will be February 17th.  If you are contemplating dropping a course, try and make this decision before these dates in order to get back your tuition costs.

The academic calendar will also inform you about the last days to drop a course before receiving a W or a WF.

Resources

For other money saving tips throughout the semester, check out these sites:

http://www.shmoop.com/college/save-money-in-college.html

http://moneyfor20s.about.com/u/ua/studentloans/best_college_savings_tips.htm

http://collegelife.about.com/od/moneyfinances/a/ManagingMoney.htm

http://blog.chegg.com/2013/08/02/on-a-budget-top-10-ways-to-save-money-at-college/

Christyne Stephenson
Peer Financial Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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